Here is a plan for bringing real jobs back to Evanston.



In my last Patch Blog - “Evanston Mayor in Denial” - I described how I have tried to meet with Evanston Mayor Tisdahl to discuss an idea I have for bringing jobs back to Evanston.


Today, I will tell you the idea

Well, she hasn’t wanted to hear it, but I thought I should tell you about it just in case I can generate enough community enthusiasm to make something happen. I hope enough of you see the potential in the business case and will want to join me in trying to make this a reality.


My Credentials

First, let me tell you about my credentials so you know I am not just some kooky guy who doesn’t know about business, strategy, missions, critical paths, startups, operations, legalities, competition, partnerships, building great teams, inspiring and managing people and processes and getting things done.


I have been an attorney since 1980. I practiced in a lot of areas and was one of the founders of the largest independent law firm in DuPage County. (I moved out there after growing up in Evanston - fresh out of law school I couldn’t afford a home and property taxes in Evanston). My practice eventually became heavily concentrated in corporate and technology law. In 1998, the board of a financially failing international software company asked me to do a turn around, I did it - saving and creating hundreds of jobs in the process. After 10 years of turning around and enlarging the business, the shareholders who were about to lose everything they had when I took over became multimillionaires. 

As part of our business we had a customer support team that was recognized as a leader in the industry. Our call center and support desk was located in the midwest and our good midwestern attitude and concern for customers gave us an advantage over call centers located off-shore or overseas.


The Genesis of the Idea

A month or so ago, I traded my old Buick for a used pickup truck at Carmax. The Buick had a satellite radio installed which I enjoyed on long trips. The pickup had a satellite radio in it but no service. So, I called the satellite radio company - let’s call them DogStar - to transfer service. My call was answered by an off-shore call center. I could not understand the techno English this operator was throwing at me: a combination of her difficult to understand accent and her inability to depart from her “script” and tell me in consumer terms what I needed to do. After 15 minutes with this person and not getting one step closer to accomplishing a simple service transfer she gave up and hung up on me.


I called DogStar back and spent another 15 minutes with another off shore call center. I had the same communications problem, but this time, instead of hanging up, the operator said: “Let me connect you with someone who might be able to help.” She transferred the call to a North American call center and it took their operator about two minutes to make the transfer of service happen. 


“Wow,” I thought, there might be an opportunity here. I did my mini-market survey by talking to others. Almost all had a story similar to mine. You may, too. All of those that did have the problem said they would willingly pay a premium to be able to speak to a domestic call-center. “It was just such a waste of my time,” said one man. “My time is worth money.”


I started Googling “domestic call center” and discovered that some companies are advertising that their help-desks are based in the United States. They see it as a value-add for customers and differentiator from their competition.


Further, as I listen to the radio, I hear ad after ad for services and/or digital products. That’s because we don’t make much here anymore and we cannot really compete in a cost efficient way with manufacturing in China and the other places we sent our ability to “make stuff.” Besides, don’t we want more evolved and relevant jobs that don’t turn our workers into robots? How about jobs that also teach skills and expertise and can lead to higher callings?




Why this will work in Evanston


Evanston has the people, the facilities, the businesses, the know how and the need to Bring Back Call Center Business to the United States. Evanston can - as it has done in the past - show other communities how to be activist on important societal issues.


Evanston has hundreds of people that could find meaningful employment in our call center.  

  •  Young people would quickly soak up the training they would need to succeed, accumulating experience and knowledge about interacting with customers and the public, learning technology, specific knowledge about products and services they are supporting and preparing them for moving to careers - not just jobs.
  •  Older unemployed people, who have spent the better part of their lifetimes in business, could find meaning, purpose and income in applying their experience in building, supporting, managing and working in this community based business.


Evanston has businesses that could support the business and their community by sourcing their call center work to our call center.

  • Businesses would benefit by having the differentiator and competitive advantage of a LOCAL domestic based call center.

Evanston has the empty real estate to house the call-center. 

  • Let’s get some vacant buildings back on-line.


Evanston has the need to provide an opportunity and chance to our youth who face such miserable job and economic prospects. I am ashamed to be part of a generation that has left such an awful mess for our children and grandchildren.


I cannot do this alone. While I have necessary skills and experience (including establishing a 400-person data center providing youths a learning and technology job experience in a locale where their only alternative was low paying, repetitive assembly line work) I really believe this should be an idea that gets wide spread community support. I want to send the message throughout the land that my home town, Evanston, has brought together its private resources to address the jobs crisis. I want to send the message that together we can be entrepreneurial and not rely only on government to drag us out of hole we have dug.


We are in formation stage. I need people to contact me if they have any interest in joining in. I would like - with your help - to develop a 90-day plan. Anything longer won’t get things done.


So, contact me by replying on Patch or by emailing me at ejlieberman@gmail.com if you are:


  • A business that would consider using the power of a local help desk / call center.
  • An experienced business person that can help explore and implement this idea.
  • A person, young or old, that would want to participate.
  • A property owner in Evanston that has a vacant property that would fit our needs.
  • A person who just wants to keep informed about.


Finally, pass the link to this Patch Blog to friends, family and associates that you think should be aware of this initiative.



Eric Lieberman

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jim November 02, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Great idea, Eric. Here are a couple of others: Custom made furniture and wood products made by trainable young men and women on donated equipment and lumber and supervised by shop teachers at local schools and other interested woodworkers. All profits to the workers. Between used equipment which has no market value, new equipment donated and donated wood, cost of product would be relatively low. There are design software products easily taught and learned which would ease the process and there are plenty of woodworkers who would be happy to help. Second, the apple growers in Washington state are desparate for workers as are other ag sectors. Start a company to broker ag workers, provide training, transportation, etc.. Have the hdqtrs in Evanston and concentrate on young unemployed folks. Who knows, maybe there are some aspiring farmers out there. Maybe ask the Evanston farmers market folks about this.
Eric Lieberman November 02, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Flash: Mayor Tisdahl phoned me shortly after noon today and we agreed to meet after the elections. - Eric
TakeBackIllinois November 04, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Eric, I applaud your ideas; really, the first concrete ideas I have heard from any candidate running for office. MAJOR obstacles to bringing those jobs back to the US, and hugely impeding small jobs creation include the obvious currency exchange rate where workers in India are paid a fraction of their same counterparts here in the US; on a dollar equivalent basis. Also, for small businesses over 30 employees, Obamacare can have devastating effects on profit margins, if insurance is not provided and the fine up to $2,000 is paid per employee (over 30) . And, lastly the Illinois corporate tax rate needs to come down, as compared to our close neighbors. Maybe some sort of Economic Zone could be created in Evanston? Perhaps, a new business incubator site could be created as well. What I see, though, are local politicians like Dan Biss & Elaine Nekritz not doing a thing for small business creation. The fact of the matter is a completely new, out-of-the box business creation strategy has to be thought out for any small business to start, here in Illinois, under the present financial disaster Illinois is facing. Vote Biss and Nekritz out; that is a good start.
Brad Morehead November 08, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Eric, This is a great idea. Being based in America is a huge selling point for my company LiveWatch Security www.LiveWatchSecurity.com and www.SafeMart.com While I live and work in Evanston, we have grown our Kansas office rapidly from a 12 person call center operation to over 60 people in just 2 years! We are serving customers nationwide. I just emailed you. Would love to discuss these plans with you (and/or the mayor) in more detail.
Eric Lieberman November 09, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Brad - you are just the guy I was hoping the universe would send to me! Write me directly at ejlieberman@gmail.com and let's set up a time to talk. - Best, Eric


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